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Another picket may hit nursing home; Union threat tied to contract talks

Union leaders at Odd Fellow and Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center said Saturday they will picket the nursing home again if negotiations April 16 don't produce a settlement.

Jim Crampton, chief negotiator for Local 1199, Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers East, said that at a meeting Thursday, "Members gave their approval to do another informational picket if nothing comes of the negotiations on the 16th."

Employees at the 126-bed nursing home picketed Jan. 25 in front of the Old Niagara Road facility, and a rally of union members was held in a Lockport park a month later.

SEIU represents more than 100 nurses, aides and housekeeping, laundry and dietary workers whose last contract ran out Dec. 31.

The financially troubled nursing home delayed employees' raises last year and reduced the schedule for full-time workers from 40 to 37.5 hours per week to save money.

Administrator Eugene L. Urban could not be reached to comment Saturday, but after the last bargaining session March 30 he said the facility wanted to tie pay raises to employee attendance levels.

His proposal was a lump sum in the first year of a new deal and a 2.2 percent increase in the second year -- but only for employees who work their full schedule 15 out of 17 weeks. For others, the pay increase would be limited to 1 percent.

The management proposal, which Crampton called "absurdly insulting," was a revision of an earlier proposal for a 3 percent hike tied to three different performance measurements, which the union said were outside workers' control.

The union also plans to send letters to political leaders and members of the Odd Fellow and Rebekah board.

The letters say that "a part of the Odd Fellow mission is to provide 'benefits for all mankind,' and those benefits should be extended to the health care providers that enable Odd Fellow to fulfill their mission."